Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Editorials

Charging overseas visitors for NHS care

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.g5856 (Published 01 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5856
  1. Julian Sheather, deputy head of ethics, BMA, London, UK

Medicine and immigration control are uncomfortable bedfellows

Despite living in a globalised world, xenophobia, the irrational fear of what is foreign or strange, is on the rise. 1 During times of austerity, it is easy to make quick political wins by targeting non-nationals as the source of economic problems. Doubts about the political legitimacy of the European Union—what has been called the EU’s “democratic deficit”—are also feeding into a resurgence of nationalism.2 Although the depth of the UK’s economic dependence on migrant labour cannot seriously be questioned, the social and cultural impact of migration is often cast in a negative light, criticised for undermining social solidarity and community cohesion.3 It is against this background that the government has issued plans to reform access to the NHS by overseas visitors. Under the Immigration Act passed by parliament in May 2014 a surcharge will be imposed for temporary migrants from outside the EEA to access NHS services starting from January 2015. Emma Rietbergen explores the impact of this change in the linked Feature on p 10. Although access to NHS treatment by visitors, working migrants, and …

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